To celebrate the end of the year, which delightfully coincides with the season of book-gifting, we asked some of our 2021 authors to reflect on the year gone by. This round, Therese Estacion, Hasan Namir, Aaron Tucker, and Meghan Bell speak about how it felt to have a book come out during the pandemic, the highlights of their reading year, and which books they will be wrapping up for friends and family over the holidays. Without further ado:
Therese Estacion, author of Phantompains
Despite the restrictions COVID placed on my book launch, it was an incredibly fruitful year for me. I was fortunate enough to be a part of different readings and interviews. It felt reassuring and deeply gratifying to receive positive feedback and know that people are interested in my work and my experiences.
I have been fortunate enough to find the time to read a lot this year. Two books came to mind when thinking of this question: Francesca Ekwuyasi’s Butter Honey Pig Bread and Amina Cain’s Indelicacy. I plan on gifting Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Spawn by Marie-Andre Gill (translated by Kristen Renee Miller).
Hasan Namir, author of Umbilical Cord
2021 has truly been one of the most unforgettable years of my life! I’m thrilled that Umbilical Cord, my second poetry book with Book*hug press came out in September! Since its release, it’s been making a splash! I’m so glad that people are buying and reading the book! The book came out as we are still in a pandemic, but I’m happy I was able to have a small in-person book launch event and I’m thankful to have participated in online virtual events! I hope the book continues to bring joy and spread love and hope!
My favourite poetry books were Pebble Swing by Isabella Wang and with/holding by Chantal Gibson and The Good Arabs by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch! My favourite novels that I read this year are Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez and Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi!
Aaron Tucker, author of Catalogue d’oiseaux
As always, putting a book out into the world is exciting and terrifying, but this particular collection was, obviously, different due to Covid. I had mixed feelings about Catalogue d’oiseaux’s place in a pandemic world: it is an optimistic love poem and while I think there is a lot of desire for joy from readers, and I think the book achieves that, it felt sometimes out of tune with how the world was operating. I really missed giving the book life through the intimacy of live readings. At the same time, I was able to have an incredible launch with a number of writers and artists that I admire and count among my friends. Though it’s not directly related to the book itself, maybe the best part of having the book in the world was being given the opportunity to be a reader for the CBC Poetry Prize.
I would be remiss to not point immediately to Kirby’s Poetry is Queer as one of my absolute favourite books of the year – it’s a beautifully personal and yet deeply citational book that is funny, smart, and gorgeous all at once. I also loved This Radiant Life by Chantal Neveu, translated by Erín Moure, and Ralph Kolewe’s The Absence of Zero – they are both very different books, working at very different scales, but I love the challenge that both present to their readers. I also adored Phil Hall’s Toward a Blacker Ardour and Niagara & Government. What a double bill! He is one of the my favourite poets and anything from him is cause for celebration. In terms of prose, I couldn’t get enough of André Alexis’s Ring, the final book in his quincunx; he’s such a smart and engaging writer and this book, maybe more than the other four, really blurs reality and fiction in terrific ways.
Meghan Bell, author of Erase and Rewind
Mixed! It’s always a little uncomfortable (for me, at least) to know that strangers are reading my words. There’s an intimacy there that I’ve never quite gotten used to, and doubt I ever will. At the same time, I’m proud of the stories in the collection and happy that they are out there and resonating with so many readers—if nothing else, I think the stories are honest.
I’ve been a bit all over the place reading-wise this year because I spent January to September pregnant and the last two months taking care of an infant. My ability to focus on books was disrupted by COVID already but it really went downhill with the pregnancy brain fog and fatigue. I’ve left a lot of books—good ones—half-finished. Most of the books I’ve really gotten into lately are non-fiction and related to parenting or human health and biology. For fiction—I really loved Genki Ferguson’s, Satellite Love. It was so strange and beautiful, very unique.
PS) A little reminder that all available and in stock titles are 25% on the Book*hug website until December 24, 2021, as part of our annual Holiday Sale! Simply use code HOLIDAYSAVINGS at checkout. Happy reading!
Therese Estacion is part of the Visayan diaspora community. She spent her childhood between Cebu and Gihulngan, two distinct islands found in the archipelago named by its colonizers as the Philippines, before she moved to Canada with her family when she was ten years old. She is an elementary school teacher and is currently studying to be a psychotherapist. Therese is also a bilateral below knee and partial hands amputee, and identifies as a disabled person/person with a disability. Therese lives in Toronto. Her poems have been published in CV2 and PANK Magazine, and shortlisted for the Marina Nemat Award. Phantompains is her first book.